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Dayhoff: The passion, thrill, and magic of April in Carroll County

Hopefully, this year, we will not have an April like we had over 120 years ago. The Democratic Advocate reported on April 24, 1897, “A blast from the North bore down on this section Monday night, sending down the mercury to 26 (degrees) at 7 o’clock on Tuesday morning … This has been the coldest April for twenty years.”

Perhaps one person in Carroll County history who may have opted for a less eventful April was the editor of the Western Maryland Democrat, Joseph Shaw. According to old file notes, “Joseph Shaw, the outspoken, pro-southern newspaperman, was Carroll County’s final casualty of the (Civil) war.”

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Shaw was lynched by an angry mob in Westminster at the corner of Anchor and West Main streets because of an editorial he had published in the paper just days before President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865.

It might be important to mention at this point that these days, murdering editors or newspaper writers is on the disapproved behavior list in Westminster. You can complain and mutter epitaphs — but you can’t harm us.

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It was in April 1973 that yet another proposed reservoir was on its way to being forced off the drawing board by the public. A $5 million reservoir proposed by the City of Westminster on Big Pipe Creek in Union Mills was taken off the drawing board in September 1976.

On April 17, 1931, the Maryland General Assembly approved legislation titled “Chap 279 Unincorporate Sykesville in Howard Co.” Although the early beginnings of the area we now know as Sykesville trace back to at least the 1820s, the Town of Sykesville was not officially formed until the Maryland General Assembly passed Chapter 256 of the Acts of 1904, which initially incorporated the Town of Sykesville.

Although the 1931 legislation is a bit complicated, the meat of the matter of dissolving the Howard County portion of the town is found with the words: “relating to the corporate limits of the town of Sykesville and to exclude all that part of said town which lies in Howard County from its corporate limits.”

Why? The answer might be because much of the Howard County portion of the town washed away in the devastating flood of 1868 and never really recovered. According to an introduction written by Duane Doxzen for Linda F. Greenberg’s excellent history, “Sykesville Past and Present,” written in 2000; the flooding resulted from a “reported eighteen inches of rain in half an hour.”

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Doxzen reports that “fifty people died, and homes, mills and other businesses were reduced to rubble … Nearly every bridge from Mt. Airy to Baltimore was washed away.”

I can only guess that perhaps another reason is that it gets a little too interesting to govern a municipality that exists in two counties. I mean, think about it for a moment, if you think dealing with one county government has its interesting moments, try dealing with two county governments.

In Maryland there are several municipalities whose boundaries lie in two counties. One of which, of course, is right here in Carroll County – and Frederick County – Mount Airy.

One municipality, Delmar, exists in two states: Maryland and Delaware. Ay caramba, it gives me a headache just to think of the challenges that must bring.

The American Sentinel reported on April 25, 1896, “The Prohibition party of Carroll County held a convention at Carroll Hall, this city, on Saturday afternoon. Charles R. Woods was chosen chairman, and Calvin Chew, secretary.” We’ll drink to that.

American Sentinel reported on April 11, 1896, the cornerstone for the new Westminster fire hall on Main Street was set with great pomp and ceremony. “The event had long been anticipated with interest, not only by the firemen, but by citizens generally, and drew to the scene a large assembly of people… It was preceded by a parade of the Westminster Band and the firemen, in full dress uniform.… The parade was formed at the railroad, shortly after one o'clock, under charge of the marshal, Ex-Mayor Joseph D. Brooks; Mr. E. J. Lawyer, president and F. K. Herr, chief.” Courtesy the Westminster Fire Department
American Sentinel reported on April 11, 1896, the cornerstone for the new Westminster fire hall on Main Street was set with great pomp and ceremony. “The event had long been anticipated with interest, not only by the firemen, but by citizens generally, and drew to the scene a large assembly of people… It was preceded by a parade of the Westminster Band and the firemen, in full dress uniform.… The parade was formed at the railroad, shortly after one o'clock, under charge of the marshal, Ex-Mayor Joseph D. Brooks; Mr. E. J. Lawyer, president and F. K. Herr, chief.” Courtesy the Westminster Fire Department (Kevin Dayhoff)

On another public safety and welfare note, the American Sentinel reported on April 11, 1896, the cornerstone for the new Westminster fire hall on Main Street was set with great pomp and ceremony.

“The event had long been anticipated with interest, not only by the firemen, but by citizens generally, and drew to the scene a large assembly of people … It was preceded by a parade of the Westminster Band and the firemen, in full dress uniform. … The parade was formed at the railroad, shortly after one o’clock, under charge of the marshal, Ex-Mayor Joseph D. Brooks; Mr. E. J. Lawyer, president and F. K. Herr, chief.”

Built in 1896, the old firehouse on East Main Street dominates Westminster’s skyline. The building housed the fire company’s equipment on the first floor. The upper floors had meeting rooms, the city council chamber, city clerk’s office, a banquet hall, kitchen, and a lending library. This image shows the library on April 6, 1906, the day that an early-morning fire in the adjacent Palace Livery Stable caused damage to the firehouse and the Westminster City offices. Courtesy the Westminster Fire Department and the Historical Society of Carroll County.
Built in 1896, the old firehouse on East Main Street dominates Westminster’s skyline. The building housed the fire company’s equipment on the first floor. The upper floors had meeting rooms, the city council chamber, city clerk’s office, a banquet hall, kitchen, and a lending library. This image shows the library on April 6, 1906, the day that an early-morning fire in the adjacent Palace Livery Stable caused damage to the firehouse and the Westminster City offices. Courtesy the Westminster Fire Department and the Historical Society of Carroll County. (Kevin Dayhoff)

Ten years later, on April 6, 1906, the fire company only had to go next door to spring into action. According to the American Sentinel, a fire destroyed the “Palace livery stable and residence of Mr. Harry H. Harbaugh, on East Main Street, with nearly (all) their entire contents, consisting of 22 horses, 45 vehicles… The stable was a large frame structure … between the Firemen’s Building and the residence of Mayor O. D. Gilbert … The rear of the stable bordered on St. John’s Catholic Cemetery.”

H.H. Harbaugh’s Palace Livery Stable and residence destroyed, April 6, 1906. According to the American Sentinel, a fire destroyed the “Palace livery stable and residence of Mr. Harry H. Harbaugh, on East Main Street, with nearly (all) their entire contents, consisting of 22 horses, 45 vehicles… The stable was a large frame structure… between the Firemen's Building and the residence of Mayor O. D. Gilbert… The rear of the stable bordered on St. John's Catholic Cemetery.” Courtesy the Westminster Fire Department
H.H. Harbaugh’s Palace Livery Stable and residence destroyed, April 6, 1906. According to the American Sentinel, a fire destroyed the “Palace livery stable and residence of Mr. Harry H. Harbaugh, on East Main Street, with nearly (all) their entire contents, consisting of 22 horses, 45 vehicles… The stable was a large frame structure… between the Firemen's Building and the residence of Mayor O. D. Gilbert… The rear of the stable bordered on St. John's Catholic Cemetery.” Courtesy the Westminster Fire Department (Kevin Dayhoff)

On the bright side, the Democratic Advocate reported on April 2, 1948, that the American Legion in Westminster installed their first TV set. “Television is still in its infancy; however, it is particularly well adapted to sports events. Each night a major sport is televised. This large television set was installed by J. Stoner Geiman.”

On another positive note, the Carroll Record reported on April 5, 1973, that my friend, Sergeant Peter Edward Drabic, returned to Union Bridge after four and one half years of captivity in Vietnam.

Hopefully Mother Nature has remembered to schedule spring this year. We’re overdue for more good news and sunshine this year.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. His Time Flies column appears every Sunday. Email him at kevindayhoff@gmail.com.

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